I have to admit, I was a little nervous about staying in the Bush Camp at Willem Pretorius. The thought of no electricity and the potential threat of no hot water during winter time in South Africa totally freaked me out! I wasn’t going to show it though. Instead I tried to convey my excitement, “No electricity or Wi-Fi, it’s going to be so peaceful and zen like to be somewhat ‘off the grid’. Seriously guys, can’t wait.” In my head I’m saying, “Oh, no can I do this? Do I have everything I need? Ok, seriously, how cold is it going to get? I know I said I love winter time, but with electricity- indoor’s with a hot cup of coca watching TV and snuggling with my pugs.” A seemingly short 3 hour drive alongside Catherine and Francois and then we were there. But of course, not without tons of fun facts about the landscape and tidbits about the people we were going to meet….
….And a rare Rhino sighting..these two lovely ladies were kicking it by the side of the road.
We arrived and there were two new faces: Hennie Butler, a fellow researcher and professor, and Gerrit Jonker, a student working towards his Masters at the University of the Free State. Catherine and I got to spend an ample amount of time getting to know Francois on the drive to the reserve, so we felt like we had the upper hand on the social scale. We also got to hear more about these two new people we were about to meet. The sun was about to set so we got there just in time to get everything unloaded and get the fire going for dinner.
Welcome to the Bush Camp!
When I saw where we were going to be staying all my fears subsided….it reminded me of summer camp as a kid. Wood cabins and the smell of a fire pit.
As the sun begin to set, we all got settled in. My first impression of Hennie Butler: Hennie pointed out the lay of the land to Catherine and me and all that Gerrit and he had done to clean up before we arrived. Apparently the people who stayed before forgot to throw their trash out and the baboons had a field day with all the leftovers. For Texans, think of what raccoons are capable of under the right circumstance, and there’s your image. Hennie explained, “The place was completely covered in rubbish. We spent the entire day cleaning the baboon mess. If you look over near the restrooms you’ll see solar panels that we meant to get on the roof. But you can only get so much done in a day,” said in jest. At this point I decided I liked Hennie, I totally got his humor.And he let me borrow his super cool flashlight so I could write in my journal in the dark before dinner.
Dear Diary, My first night in the Bush Camp…
Hennie could also be counted on to provide words of wisdom around the camp fire. It kind of reminded me of that scene in the twilight series when Bella goes to visit Jacob’s tribal meeting around the camp fire to hear their history. Replace “tribal history” with stories of camping while doing research in the Kalahari, sprinkled with some wise quotes to live by.
Here is a quick sampling:
“It’s not about answers, it’s about questions.” – Said in regard to research in the field.
“It’s the Bush Man’s television.”- Said about the camp fire.
“You’ll never find the hidden places by sticking to the well traveled road.”
“You don’t have to see a road to know that there is one.”
“Let me tell you about your first cup of coffee. You never, ever rush your first cup of coffee.” -Said while being rushed while trying to finish my first cup of coffee.
The Man, the myth, the legend.
Needless to say, we all loved our time around the fire at night. It was a chance to tell stories and re-cap on the days events. Pretty much everyday had it’s story. And more importantly it was where dinner was made and how we stayed warm at night. That fire was our saving grace.
Cat and I one night. (Photo Cred: Francois Deacon).
For example, on our way to the look out point our vehicle almost got stampeded by water buffalo as they came surging across the road, completely unfazed by Francois’s Land Cruiser.
That time we saw a pregnant rhino and a younger rhino just chilling by the side of the road.
Finding a giraffe bull laying down, which is very rare out in the wild, only to realize the bull was sick and had been abandoned by the herd. We took fecal samples back with us to see what could be deduced about it’s health.
And of course the view- heading to the top of the reserve to see the sunrise and sunset was magical. Have you ever seen a moon rising in Africa? Well, I have. The only way I could think to describe it was as a ball of red and yellow serenity.
No morning film set would be complete without coffee and espresso
Sundowner at the top of the reserve
Now, I know I’m sure everyone is wondering: did you all go to South Africa just to film a sunset? Um, no. Although, I will say the sunsets are fairly amazing. While filming all these seemingly boring sky shots our film crew was performing various interviews of Hennie Butler and Francois Deacon talking about the reserve, issues with conservation, what they already knew about giraffe behavior, and of course what to expect for the main event – the day we collared the giraffes.
Filming on top of the Land Cruiser
Hanging out in the field was in my opinion akin to 2 semesters in zoology in college. We all learned so much about the vegetation, wildlife and just general practices when out in the field. I think this blog accurately portray’s life in the Bush Camp. Enjoy.
Next time aka Part 3: Giraffe collaring.
And of course don’t forget to check out our Kick Starter Campaign for more details on the project and how you can help out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1630877467/last-of-the-longnecks
Until then, sweet South African Dreams from your Waterpark Princess!